Potential New Features

Here are some new types of posts you may see around here.

1. New miscellaneous posts.

In the early days there was a regular Sunday post feature called, Sundry Drive. That turned into Gardyloo. The individual Gardyloo segments could get somewhat long. The new aggregate posts will contain three or four quickly digestible items. Either pictures, videos, or very short written segments.

I’m not quite sure what I’ll name this recurring segment, but I’m thinking of the name below because it’s stupid and sounds like the title of an old soap opera…

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2. Reader Mail

I already have the Dear Jerxy posts where I address a larger subject inspired by someone’s email to me, but I have other emails that might be of interest that don’t really fit that format. I may start doing some mailbag posts consisting of briefer questions/comments from readers.

3. Consumer Advocacy

I’m hoping I don’t have to do this one, but I’ve got the platform for it, so if it’s needed I will. I’ve been getting more and more emails from people whose posts are being removed from the Magic Cafe for no reason at all.

I have zero issues with the Cafe removing posts for vulgarity or harassment or whatever. And I have no issue with them deleting references to this site. I heard there was a very nice thread about Magic For Young Lovers there which they let go for a few days. I think they were waiting on some negative reviews to hopefully pop up. When it turned into a love-fest for the book—because it’s fucking brilliant—they had to step in and remove it. That’s fine with me. They’re too stupid to know that attitude towards this site only helps me.

But when they delete helpful posts because they’re critical of people advertising on the site, that’s pretty sketchy.

So if you’re being censored for something perfectly reasonable on the Cafe, you can reach out to me and I’ll happily post whatever they’re deleting on this site instead. So, you have a choice if you’re selling a magic project. You can let valid criticism stay and be buried in a thread on the Cafe. Or you can raise a stink and get the post deleted and I’ll post it here instead. One thing to keep in mind… I’m more popular than any given thread on the Cafe. Many more people will read it, and I’ll do a better job calling you out for your shit than whoever posted on the Cafe in the first place.

I’m also happy to lend a hand for other legitimate non-Cafe magic gripes as well. I’m not going to step in for every minor dispute, but if I can help out with some issue you’re having by giving it a little publicity, I’d be okay with that.

In New York City the consumer advocate group on the local news was the Fox 5 Problem Solvers.

On this site we have…

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Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

It’s the two-year anniversary of the Jerx Amateur Magic Monthly magazine. I really love how that thing turned out.

On this Valentine’s Day I want to recognize our eternal valentines, the JAMM Muses—the ladies who graced the cover of that fine magazine. The Muses were a combination of exes, old friends, new friends, and a few who were essentially strangers before the shoot, but they were all universally a delight to be around and the magazine wouldn’t have been nearly as good without them.

(Also thanks to my friend, Andrew, and his assistant, Taylor, for conducting the shoots for The JAMM. And thanks to JM Beckers for coining the term JAMM Muse.)

February Muse - Jessica

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March Muse - Mallory

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April Muse - Alice

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May Muse - Breanna

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June Muse - Karla

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July Muse - Eliza

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August Muse - Stasia

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September Muse - Gibson

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October Muse - Jerri

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November Muse - Nikki

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December Muse - Amanda

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January Muse - Amber

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The Eternal Promise Between Lovers

Courtesy of our friends at the Magic Transcribed twitter

I have no idea who wrote this, but whoever did, consult your physician. “Word salad” is a sign of schizophrenia.

Y’all know you can hire people to write ad copy, yes? It’s a job. I’ve done it. You don’t need to point to the person who packs the orders for your company and say, “Hey, why don’t you crank out a couple paragraphs. Better yet, just scan some Hank Lee newsletters and a love note written by a learning-disabled 12-year-old into the computer and have it spit something out based on that input.”

Now, perhaps this is the result of a bad translation of something that reads perfectly fine in another language. Okay… but if that’s the case, what about the guy doing the talking? That’s an English speaking human, right? It’s not a talking cockatiel in a human suit repeating sounds without understanding meaning, is it? Why didn’t he stop at some point and say, “Hey guys, I just realized, this is a bunch of gibberish”?

When you make a proposal or make a confession, it will offer you a brand new possibility.

Say what?

A confession?

“That’s right. I raped him. I murdered him. And you know what? I’d do it again if given the chance. Throw the book at me if you want, but first…”

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Charges dropped!

Ok, on a completely different subject, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Feel free to download and print the image below on a heavy card stock as the ultimate expression of love for the man or woman in your life.

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Games and Magic

Think of this…

Here’s Pong, one of the first video games ever made.

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Here’s Donkey Kong, which came out about 10 years later.

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And here is the trailer for the game The Last of Us which came out in 2013.

Think of how video games have evolved in forty years.

Yes, the graphics have come a million miles.

Ok, yes, that’s true. And that’s the most apparent change, but I don’t know that it’s the most significant.

When video games first came around, they were almost all about simply accomplishing a task. You’re a frog and you have to cross the street and then the river.

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And further levels will just add more cars and remove logs. That’s what almost every game was. Your goal was to accomplish some task either as fast as possible or without dying or both.

But in just a few decades, video games became something quite different. It wasn’t just a change in graphics. Games became about narrative and immersion.

I began thinking about this because of an email I got a few weeks ago from friend of the site, Ricardo Delgado. He wrote, in part:

Games are capable of producing emotions that other media cannot

This phrase caught my eye when I was reading about Will Wright’s online course about game design on Masterclass. 

And reading through the Lesson Plan I saw some similarities with magic (specifically your ideas on MFYL). Both are a “different media”, there are lots of possibilities of what to do and stories to tell, they can be an immersive experience, etc. 

Then I was talking about the parallels between magic and game design with my friend, Pat, over text and he mentioned this…

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I was surprised I hadn’t noticed this before. Throughout the 80s—the first real video game heyday— that was the whole point of playing the game: to get further along, to get the high score. And now it’s something people rarely consider. If you told someone playing Burger Time in 1984 that many future games would not even have “scores” they’d probably barely be able to wrap their mind around it. What’s a game without a score?

But video games changed and blossomed out from just this one metric of “score.” The goal of “completing tasks” was put in a context and that became a relatable narrative people could get caught up in.

That is, I believe, the next leap for close-up, social magic.

For the most part, how we present close-up magic hasn’t change much in 100 years. That is not the sign of a vibrant, healthy art form.

Our only concern is, often, “Did I fool them?” That’s a very one-dimensional approach to presenting magic. It reminds me of the 1980’s focus on the “hi-score” in video games. That focus keeps us from creating some more nuanced, and interesting experiences with magic. Instead we’re sitting here doing the same old Q*Bert shit.

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But if we take “fooling them” and put it in the context of a larger story or experience, I think we can create a far more captivating encounter for the audience, similar to the way video games elevated simple task-based challenges by building a story around them.

(If you’re new here, and you have no idea what I’m talking about by putting a trick in a greater context, start at the beginning of the site and work your way back here. You’ll see examples along the way.)

People will say, “Oh, you’re too good to do things the way Dai Vernon did them?” No. But Dai Vernon wasn’t doing things the way people did them 75 years before him either. For magic to be vital it needs to change or at least try new things. Stage magic has evolved. Television magic has evolved. But close-up magic is still often just random, meaningless tricks with some half-hearted “presentation” thrown in.

“Well excuse me for being old-fashioned and just doing ‘random, meaningless tricks,’ but my audience seems to enjoy them just fine, thank you very much.”

I’m sure they do. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be open to a more engrossing presentational style. The thing is, they don’t know such a thing exists. It’s up to us to push the experience to new heights, not the audience. They don’t know what they want. You have to build it for them first. If you asked people in the early 70s playing Pong what changes they’d like to see in their video game experience, they wouldn’t have said, “I’d like a more immersive, narrative based experience.” They would have said, “It would be cool if the ball was blue.”


Further exploration:

Here you can watch the intro scene for The Last of Us video game.

And here you can watch some people in their 60s and older, playing that intro. It’s interesting to see people who haven’t seen what video games have become be exposed to them for the first time.

Coming soon:

Transitioning away from the “magic trick as performative demonstration” style and towards the “magic trick as immersive fiction” style for those who are having trouble with this sort of thing.

Delineation

Hold on…

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Sorry. Had to dust off my keyboard.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with feedback in regards to Magic For Young Lovers. It was pretty overwhelming. I knew the material was strong, because I’ve performed it all. But I still never really know how these things are going to be received by the people who pony up the money to make this all happen. So I’m glad to hear people felt it was worth their investment.

Okay, so let’s say you came to this site late and you’ve been reading everything in order and you’ve finally gotten to this post. Going forward from this point you’re going to find the posting to be slightly different. Posts will be shorter, they’ll go less in-depth into the topics, and the posts will be generally dumber, I would guess.

Originally my idea was just to put everything I wrote in regards to magic on this site. I thought of myself as someone who wrote a blog and maybe would sometimes collect some of those blog posts and put them in a book for posterity. But then I realized, “Aw, fudge. I’m the best writer in magic period, not just on a blog. That means I have to find the best outlet for different content. I can’t just dump everything on the site.” Fully-formed tricks, in-depth theory, or detailed testing results are they type of content that is probably not best presented in blog form. That’s what I’ve been learning.

One thing I was surprised by with the feedback on MFYL is how many people mentioned a post or a trick from the book that had been on this site for a year or two but it didn’t really connect with them until they read it in the context of the book.

So, I’m not just saving the “best” stuff for the books and other publications as a reward for the supporters, but also because I think that’s the context that they shine better in. It can be hard to appreciate something when it’s posted for free for everyone to view.

I fall into the same trap. I’ll see a trick in a magazine and think, “Oh, that seems pretty good.” But it’s not until 8 years later when it’s released as a paid download that I really recognize how strong it is. That’s human nature.

So going forward you can expect:

Short, but more frequent posts. I don’t know if I’ll be on a schedule or not, but it will probably average five or so posts a week.

More posts that fall into these categories, which are what blogs do best: short, punchy posts; posts with a lot of images; posts with video and gifs; posts that are dealing with something timely; posts containing ideas that aren’t yet fully-formed; stupid posts.

Posts that present the start of a conversation on magic theory/practice. Rather than try an encapsulate an entire idea in 2400 words, I’ll spend 500 giving you the basic idea and supporters will get the more fleshed out version later on.

More behind-the-scenes stuff.

More reader mail posts.

More off-topic posts (music, “Splooge”-esque lifestyle posts, and posts about non-magic things I’m into).

The Jerx has been an evolving thing since it first launched and I’m not exactly sure what it will turn into going forward. But don’t worry. It will still be pretty much the best thing going.


I’ve had a lot of emails asking what’s going on with this year’s support options/rewards.

Here’s the deal:

On Wednesday an email will go out to all Season 3 supporters with the details on signing up for Season 4. They’ll have a week to sign up if they so choose.

If someone chooses not to sign up, then their slot will become available for a new person.

On Wednesday the 20th those slots will be made available to anyone interested on a first-come, first-serve basis (details will be in that day’s post—don’t write me early and say “put me down for one of the openings,” that’s not how it works.)

And, for the most part, that will be the end of the discussion on this site in regards to Season 4 support. Isn’t that nice? This thing is completely reader-supported. And I don’t have to go out and spam message boards to get people to sign up for it. And we’re at the point where I don’t even have to mention it a bunch on this site itself. There will just be a couple posts early on and then we’re all set for 10 straight months of fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

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Early February Check-In

  1. The email about “Season 4” will go to Season 3 supporters Feb. 13th. I wanted to give you some time with the new book to see if you felt it was worth your investment to sign up for another year.

  2. Any untaken Season 4 slots will be made available on a first come-first serve basis later in February and will be announced on the site.

  3. If you were too lazy to watch the video in the last post, the Jerx returns on Feb. 11th.

  4. There seems to be a resurgence in people saying, “If you have good audience management, people don’t want to look at [insert magically altered object here].” If you believe this, I would take this test for dementia, because there’s something wrong with you. Your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen. Wanting to look at the object is part of the normal, human response of taking interest in what you’ve shown them. You can’t “manage” your way around that. I’ve written about this 1000 times already (See WWJD, and Final Exam for a couple examples) so I won’t get all into it again. It’s just annoying because it’s the laziest sort of non-answer to legitimate concerns. “Doesn’t the audience want to see the bottle with their cellphone inside it?” No, no. You just need proper audience management. I always like to ask them what this sort of “audience management” would look like if I were to see it. They never have any real response. It’s just a phrase they use to avoid dealing with the realities of the effect.

  5. Our girl, Stasia, is releasing her Empty Cup Oracle Deck soon. You can buy it on her Etsy site. If you’ve got at least three brain cells rattling around in that big melon of yours, you will see the many opportunities to use this in a magic/mentalism context. It’s naturally more intriguing than a deck of cards, but the imagery is simpler and more easily interpreted than a tarot deck. Pick one up and support our friends.

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For Everyone

For Book Buyers

The Digital Appendix is now live. See the “Final Book Info” email for more details on that.

For Non-Book Buyers

I received a bunch of emails this weekend from new readers who want to pick up the second book after hearing something about MFYL elsewhere online. Unfortunately, other than maybe a couple stragglers, the books are all spoken for. If you’re new here, I’m not a book publisher. I write this site. People who like it support the site. In turn they get rewards at the end of each season. This year, one of the rewards was the book. But no, there won’t be a second edition or an ebook or anything like that. That would ultimately undermine the investment of the people who supported the site. I realize that’s kind of annoying, but I haven’t hit on a better system yet.

For Non-Fans

I received a few emails this weekend asking what I thought about some negative comments about this site on a message board. My response was, “huh?” The truth is, I don’t read a single thing about this site, positive or negative unless the person writes it to me directly. This isn’t because I see it as a one-sided conversation, it’s the opposite. If people have something worthwhile to say, I want them to get in touch. I can’t be chasing down shit written all over the internet. I just assume if someone is going out of their way to read something they don’t like and then write about it somewhere else, then their goal is probably not to discuss whatever issue they’re pretending to have, or else they would have come to the source.

Here’s the thing… The Jerx has been responsible for me working with or corresponding with 90+% of the magicians I admire in the world today. I have a waiting list of people who want to support the site. I receive emails every day from people with embarrassingly nice things to say. This site is pretty much a source of pure delight for me. Someone on a message board has an issue? I can’t even pretend to give a shit.

For Fans